Friday, February 20, 2015

Five Film Favorites: Rock 'n' Roll

The Mamas and Papas onstage at Monterey Pop.
Movies and music go together. Like peanut butter and jelly? Perhaps more like Bonnie and Clyde.

Anyway, because moving images and music, in one form or another, compliment one another so nicely and they both rely on timing, we get the two together so often we don't even notice it. Then there are other times we're supposed to notice -- times when the music is at least as important as the picture.

When considering music films for a favorites list there are so many different kinds of musicals and movies about musicians that the category has to be narrowed. Therefore, for this list of five favorites, I’m looking only at rock ‘n’ roll movies, the genre baby boomers like me grew up hearing.

However, over the last five decades, plus, there have been so many movies that used rock ‘n’ roll music to add to the story, or perhaps to fill some gaps, that the category must be narrowed further. Just think of how many movies copied the manner in which George Lucas used oldies in "American Graffiti" (1973). Still, calling that movie a rock 'n' roll flick would be a stretch. 

So, for this list of five, only those films which present the music as concert footage are being considered. All five on my list present the musicians, performing as themselves, on-stage, before a live audience. All are documentaries of concerts of a certain stripe, even if they were staged for the purpose of making the film. Which means that as much as I like "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) I can't put it on this particular list.

Tomorrow I might change my mind, after all it's my list, but today my five favorite 'rock 'n' roll concert films are:

“Gimme Shelter” (1970): Directed by Albert Maysles and David Maysles. Performers: The Rolling Stones, also with Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Tina Turner and more.

“The Last Waltz” (1978): Directed by Martin Scorsese. Performers: The Band and various guest musicians.

“Monterey Pop” (1968): Directed by D.A. Pennebaker. Performers: Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and Papas, Otis Redding, and more.

“Stop Making Sense” (1984): Directed by Jonathan Demme. Performers: Talking Heads.

“The T.A.M.I. Show” (1964): Directed by Steve Binder. Performers: The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, The Supremes, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Lesley Gore and more.

Sorry, "Woodstock" (1970) didn't make the cut.

Now the reader is free to comment or make their own list, but some strong video evidence of the righteousness of my list really is below.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Karen Newton: 'We Need the Bijou'

James Parrish and Terry Rea hamming it up before the screening.
At Karen Newton's blog, I Could Go On and On, she writes about what a good time she had on Sunday night, in spite the somewhat daunting weather conditions. She liked the pre-screening gathering at the Portrait House, she liked the movie at The Byrd -- "Finding Vivian Maier" -- and she liked the after-party at the New York Deli, during which Chez Roué played live. Here's a sample:
...No one will ever convince me that watching a movie at home with stops for bathroom breaks and food runs is anything like a genuine film experience.
Which is exactly why we need the Bijou. I don't want to just read about amazing films, I want them to have a place to play in Richmond where I can watch them with 100 or so of my closest strangers (or people I know, I won't discriminate). 

Because if 900 people come out on a blustery, nearly sub-zero work night to see a documentary about a dead nanny with a Rolleiflex, we are most definitely a film town.
We Bijou-builders, (James and Terry) like what Karen wrote in her piece -- "Picture That." So please click here to read the entire piece. Thanks, Karen.

And, we'd also like to see other reviews covering our fundraising show on a chilly, breezy Feb. 15 evening. The planning for our next show is already underway, so stay tuned.   

-- Photo by Terry Brown.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Thanks to Vivian's fans

Sure, some Richmonders had already heard about the eccentric nanny who took a bunch of cool photographs -- a so-called "street photographer" -- and died a few years ago in poverty in Chicago, or somewhere. Yet, as James and I (Terry) went about promoting the Bijou's benefit screening we found that few people could remember her name. After all, during her lifetime, 1926-2009, Vivian Maier did her level best to fly under the radar.

Given those particulars, how could we have gone wrong by booking "Finding Vivian Maier" (2014), a documentary feature about a rather obscure shutterbug? (Remember, we had to pay up front for the film rental.)

Our formula for guaranteeing success? 
  • Select a film made by a couple of cats nobody had heard of. 
  • For our low-budget promotion effort depend completely on posters and shoe leather. 
  • Gamble that we could garner some favorable publicity about the screening from local publishers. 
  • Using Facebook, hope to get film buffs and the local photography community talking about the movie. 
  • While ignoring the fact one could see the same film on cable television, or get the DVD from Netflix, by all means, show it on a breezy, frigid mid-February night. 
Rather than stretch the facetiousness any thinner, the point is James and I had a lot of help and it all added up to a bottom line success -- nearly 1,000 people showed up. So now we'd both like to take time out from congratulating ourselves for whatever we might have done right, whether by plan or accident, and say, "Thank you."

Make that, "THANK YOU!"

Without the help we got from our partners and sponsors for this venture, as well as the local media, it simply would not have happened. Chief among them was Gordon Stettinius, of Candela Books + Gallery, who first suggested "Finding Vivian Maier" to James as a film to consider playing. That happened months ago. Then James and I looked at the DVD of the film and decided to take the plunge.

From James Parrish's comments on Facebook on Feb. 16:
A special thanks to our partners and sponsors -- Candela Books + Gallery, VCUarts Photography and Film, The Byrd Theatre & Foundation, IFC Films, Plan 9 Music, Visual Arts Center of Richmond, New York Deli, Portrait House and Terry Brown Photography.
And thanks to Bygones Vintage Clothing, Ipanema Cafe and Alchemy Coffee (in addition to Candela) for selling advance tickets.
A huge shout out to Roger Carroll, Debo Dabney, Brian Sulser and Johnny Hott of Chez Roué for the perfect nightcap!
Last night's success definitely gives Terry and me more hope and confidence that Richmond wants and will support a small, independent art house cinema, cafe/bar and nonprofit film center dedicated to everything from Hollywood to home movies with detours.
No doubt, when the movie we had picked for our second fundraiser screening received an Academy Award nomination in mid-January it helped draw attention to the title we had already booked some six weeks before. So for whatever part of the Bijou's success on Sunday was pure luck, we're especially grateful to the gods who watch over the show biz risk-takers.

Once again, a roomful of patrons got to feel the difference between watching a movie alone on a small screen and being part of a packed house seeing the images traipse across a movie house screen. After our success with "A Hard Day's Night" (1964) back in September and "Finding Vivian Maier," we have demonstrated the range the Bijou will be comfortable working within. We intend to exhibit old films and new films, big films and small films.

Moreover, the Bijou Film Center will be a friend to movie-lovers of all persuasions. A friend to filmmakers. A friend to other exhibitors. A friend to people who have amateur films they want preserved and transferred to digital. And, a friend to those who'd like to have a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and perhaps a bite to eat, while they discuss their thoughts about this and that, to do with the illusion of moving images.  

Soon we'll be posting some information about our further plans to help make the dream of a Bijou Film Center for Richmond come true. In the meantime, visit our Facebook page for routine daily posts and to see some of the photos from the Feb. 15 event that have been/will be posted.

The details on how to buy a Bijou T-shirt will also be posted soon here at the Backlight, as well as on the Bijou's Facebook page.

Last, but not least, thanks to Vivian and her fans.